November: 1.5 trips

Posted by Patrick Lam on Thursday, December 3, 2020

Table Of Contents


Wellington flowers, train, Auckland Open, Whangarei Falls, Kepler Track

Back on the road

Since last time the only change in the living arrangement is the acquisition of another desk, a Gaming Desk on an early Black Friday sale. The couch is comfortable but maybe the desk is ergonomically better. Though I do feel like I’m hunched over.

Pictures: I was two trips behind last time and I went on two more trips, so now I’m four trips behind. Oops.

Left town twice this month: once for Auckland plus the “Far North”/Bay of Islands (gallery), and once for Fiordland, but that trip was half in December.

NZ and COVID-19

When I was in Auckland etc (Nov 6-15) there was a bit of concern over community transmission so we mostly avoided the CBD. One could say that I still haven’t really been to Auckland. I also noticed that the NZ Ministry of Health COVID-19: Current cases page reports the most recent community transmission date, which is November 18, or 16 days ago. NZ has been somehow quite effective at containing escapes even though scanning and mask use are rare. (Mask use is mandated on Auckland transit and airplanes).

The vaccine is coming. Bob Wachter, chair of the UCSF Dept of Medicine, estimates that the US can reach herd immunity by September. I estimate that Canada will be a month or two behind, partly because of a later start, and partly because things are just slower in Canada. That means that Fall term is going to be marginal. One could imagine starting it a bit later. Still a lot of uncertainty.

I’ve been rating Canada’s response as a D-. I calculated the death rates today and Canada’s per capita death rate is 1/2.5th of the US death rate, which is far from great. (Lots of rich European countries are doing worse though!) Atlantic Canada and the territories have done well up to now, although Nunavut is especially working hard to regain control of outbreaks.

The news

Australia really hasn’t been in the news here since getting things under control. And the US election is now well behind us.


Felt like summer as soon as I got off the train in Auckland and of course further north as well. Earlier in November it wasn’t summer in Wellington, but we have had two summer-like days now in December. Haven’t turned on the heater here for a while. Did need it in Te Anau, which is farther south. The huts were full and hence warm.

A list of new things

  • Desk.
  • Temp Nokia 5.1 phone while getting my Pixel 3a fixed again; too slow but it worked for a few days I guess. It was also on sale.
  • USB cables of various sorts.
  • Kathmandu Pathfinder Sleeping bag: not as good as MEC Talon -3. It is both heavier and not as warm. MEC made really good stuff. But my ancient sleeping bag (not the Talon) was way heavier, over 1kg. Definitely time to replace it.


  • attended virtual SPLASH, some session chairing and PLMW/long-term mentoring
  • some discussions on NSERC Alliance grant
  • course prep for P4P and grad seminar
  • formatted CV for a NZ grant proposal
  • ECESoc Ask Me Anything

Bringing back the list of things to write up:

  • Photos (Rakiura: about 1500, Canterbury: a lot): in progress, last touched Oct 18
  • ICSME (test your siblings) blurb: nope
  • August trip writeup: nope
  • September trip writeup: nope
  • Travel philosophy (been in final-drafts form since before the pandemic): nope
  • Greece recommendations (mostly drafted): nope, but I found some old pics!
  • November trip writeup: nope
  • November-December trip writeup: nope

Oh dear.

Days with work: 16/30. There were 20 workdays in November. The conference still ate a chunk of time; I counted those days as work days.

Ongoing (my grad students)

Talked to my students on 12 days (and students that are not mine on a couple of others).


Wrote two reference letters. Got another one to write, plus a grant and a journal submission to review.


Just one more set of ECE459 lecture notes to write. Recorded two ECE459 videos. Need to choose papers for SASE.


North and south. Northernmost point: Cape Brett lighthouse, in the Far North (always makes me chuckle); southernmost point: Rainbow Reach (Manapouri in December).

  • 🚶 Walking distance: 178.9km (way up from October, two decently long hikes)
  • 🚲 Biking distance: 79.4km (more trips = less biking to judo)
  • 🚗 Driving distance: drove 173km, driven 888km
  • 🚆 Train distance: 589km to Auckland
  • 🚌 Bus distance: 51.5km
  • ⛴ Boat distance: 16.8km, Opua-Okiato ferry roundtrip
  • 🛩 Plane distance: 1138km, AKL-WLG and WLG-ZQN (return in December)


Kiwi, Cape Brett, Muriwai Gannet Colony, O'Neill Bay Beach, on the Kepler, kea

Top 20 Welly Walks progress: Up to 19 with the completion of the Redwood Bush Walk. Now just need to finish Mt. Kaukau summit. Before the end of 2020, I hope.

Less judo than in October; trips will do that. Looks like I won the Judo Quebec Challenge Judo Fit in the old-man category.

Rock climbing

Brought shoes (and everything else) with me to Southland, didn’t end up using them. Weather and timing didn’t work out. Thursday could have worked but the weather forecast was bad and I changed the flight and then the weather was good on the day.


Two trips:

  • The NZ national judo championships were originally planned for Hallowe’en but got cancelled and replaced with the much smaller Auckland Open a week later. I went there and picked up a silver medal in -66kg and then hiked the Cape Brett track and visited the Bay of Islands, including Ruapekapeka Pa (historically kind of like a castle, at least functionally), the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, and the Muriwai Gannet Colony, and visiting a bunch of people I knew from their times in North America. Also Mangere Market in Auckland, basically a flea market. pictures
  • Once the Great Walks opened for bookings for the summer season I made some plans. We did the Kepler Track which was quite worth it. Somehow there was some planning information that would have been useful with respect to where to start and which huts to stay at. I guess I could have called the DOC office and asked. Anyway as with the other Great Walks we changed the dates from the originally booked ones and got a good weather window, with only rain on the first day. And we got home earlier after having done what we set out to do.

Great Walks

I’m not into rankings, but I will rank our Great Walks in order of preference:

  1. Kepler (November)
  2. Heaphy (July)
  3. Rakiura (August)
Heaphy, Rakiura, Kepler

Travel planning

Milford/Routeburn is all planned now. We should make more plans for the future. We currently don’t have any. We’ll get to half of the Great Walks done. Tongariro Circuit and Hump Ridge (future Great Walk) are on the interest list, as are other non-Great (Less?) Walks. We have a list of those too.


  • BBQ Noodles House in Albany, Auckland: tasty noodles
  • Fat Camel: worthy Israeli food in Whangarei
  • Green’s Russell: Thai (or Indian, take your pick) food in Russell
  • Huai Yang A Noodle Less Ordinary: roc-recommended noodles in Mt. Eden, Auckland.
  • Red Earth Bistro, Papakura: getting back late (in NZ terms) from the Firth of Thames we were happy to see this place was still open
  • Repeat appearance: Bao Now food truck in Te Anau. Went there twice again. It is definitely the place we’ve gone to most often in Te Anau.



Making the most of my time in New Zealand, and visiting a new-to-me region, as well as re-visiting Fiordland and hiking some mountains.

Goals: finish ECE 459 materials as well as starting ECE 750 prep. Write NSERC Alliance grant proposal. Make progress on refactoring and API surfaces projects.

I did predict that November would be less productive. No personal work on refactoring. I managed to push projects forward a bit but not so much with the personal non-research side projects. Thought more about Alliance and worked on courses.

December: will be away for 9 days before Christmas. Unsure what to do between Christmas and New Year’s. Need to wrap up course prep. Won’t have any papers in a submission-ready state but maybe in early 2021. Could submit a grant proposal.